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Volume 21 No. 1
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Cal looks to bundle lab, field naming rights

The University of California, Berkeley, seeking new ways to generate revenue for the school and its athletic department, is developing a naming-rights package for Memorial Stadium’s football field that could extend to an “innovation lab” at the stadium and other assets on campus.

The 2,700-square-foot lab, scheduled to open this fall on the main concourse along the stadium’s north end, will be operated by Cal’s Haas School of Business, recently ranked seventh among U.S. MBA programs by U.S. News & World Report. Its main building is across the street from the stadium.

The field at the rebuilt Memorial Stadium is just one campus asset that Cal is marketing.
Premier Partnerships, hired by the Pac-12 school in February, is pitching naming rights for the field at the stadium, seven months after completion of a $321 million facility renovation.

During the week, the innovation lab will serve as a working classroom where students will be charged with resolving real-world problems presented to them by Bay Area businesses as well as a showroom for new products and services. On game days, the enclosed lab will be open with demonstrations for fans.

It’s a creative way to showcase the school’s academics through the visibility of its football program, said Solly Fulp, Cal deputy athletic director and chief operating officer.

The school is in talks for naming rights to the field with companies ranging from technology to banking, Fulp said. The innovation lab is “an add-on and one that is being discussed in virtually every one of our conversations right now,” he said.

Jeff Marks, Premier Partnerships’ managing director, said the firm is marketing up to nine platforms tied to sports and other activities on Cal’s campus, including speakers series, a hall of fame for Cal-bred Olympians and recognition of the university’s Nobel laureates. It’s a “build your own package,” with the price depending on what’s included, Marks said. He would not say how much the sports marketer is asking for the individual platforms.

IMG College, which owns the school’s multimedia rights and sells Cal’s corporate sponsorships, is working with Premier to generate leads. A naming-rights deal could also involve a corporate sponsorship, which is where IMG College would get involved.

The benefits for potential naming-rights partners include some marketing inventory held by IMG College, such as radio and online advertising and video tie-ins. The company would share in the revenue of any deals sold by Premier Partnerships, Marks said.

Fulp said a naming-rights deal for the stadium’s field alone could reach the mid-seven figures annually for an agreement with a minimum of 10 years, according to a study done by Repucom, whom Cal hired to research the value in media exposure of such a deal.

The initiative also addresses a funding shortfall tied to the school’s Endowment Seating Program, Fulp said. That seat license program was instituted to pay most of the stadium construction debt. Through 2012, the sale of seat licenses had generated about $150 million in total revenue, about $80 million short of expectations over the course of the 30-year program, according to the athletic department.

The university wants to have a deal done by the coming football season, when Big Ten schools Northwestern and Ohio State will visit Memorial Stadium for nonconference games.

Cal Vice Chancellor John Wilton is the primary driver behind the university’s campaign to merge athletics and academics to generate new revenue. At Wilton’s request, a new fitness center accessible to Cal’s entire student body also opens this fall at Memorial Stadium, and it could potentially be part of the school’s overall naming-rights package, Fulp said.

“We see this as a way to redefine the model with diversification of revenue sources,” said Wilton, a former hedge fund manager and a financial executive who spent 24 years working for the World Bank in Washington. “We see a lot of brand value elsewhere on campus.”

Staff writer Michael Smith contributed to this report.